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The One Question Steve Jobs Asked Himself Every Day

The One Question Steve Jobs Asked Himself Every Day

Steve Jobs, whom most of us know for his work at the helm of Apple, looked in the mirror every day of his working life and asked himself one question: “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?” Most of the time, his answer came back as a resounding yes, but for the average person, it probably varies. So passionate about his work was Jobs that he worked right up until the day before his death, despite suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Minda Zetlin discusses the benefits of asking ourselves this question each day in terms of how it can help us to discover whether or not we’re fulfilling our full potential and working in the careers we love. Asking this question can help us to cultivate a sense of purpose in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. Here are 6 questions that Steve Jobs’s daily exercise can challenge us to ask ourselves.

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1. Does your work make you smile?

No job is perfect. We all have to deal with the demands of schedules, cranky coworkers, long hours, and mind-numbing tasks. But I’ve come to realize that at the end of the day, if I’ve smiled just once as a result of my work, it’s all been worth it. Smiling at work reminds you that you’re doing something, however small, in your daily routine that you find fulfilling.

2. How tired do you feel at the end of the day?

There seem to be two kinds of exhaustion: the well-earned readiness for rest after a challenging but productive day, and the weariness of feeling like you’ve climbed a mountain only to find yourself at the bottom having to face the same drudgery tomorrow. If you’re living according to the philosophy of Steve Jobs, you should, at least most days, experience the first rather than the second form of exhaustion. Going to bed with the feeling that you’ve accomplished something means two things: that you’re using your talents in a way that you find fulfilling and that you’re contributing productively to the world around you.

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3. Is your work rewarded?

I’m not talking about formal recognition, though being named employee of the month certainly doesn’t harm your professional credentials. Rather, do people appreciate the work that you do? Do colleagues thank you for your work, compliment your dedication, and tell you how well you do your job at least occasionally? Mental and physical health are intertwined, and the emotions, both negative and positive, that we carry around with us in the workplace often follow us home. Working in an environment where you feel valued not only contributes to your professional success, but helps you to avoid bringing bad vibes into your home and squandering your “downtime” with thoughts about overwork or office politics.

4. Do you have any regrets?

Other than the triple latte you probably shouldn’t have ordered on the way to work because it went completely off your diet, what do you regret about the way you’re living your life? When we’re unhappy, we tend to focus on what we could be doing rather than what we’re doing in the moment. Minda Zetlin points out that some of the biggest regrets we have are due to a fear of failure. Changing careers, pursuing more education, or learning a new skill can come with risks. Sometimes you’ll succeed, sometimes you won’t, but it’s far better to try and fail than to spend your life wondering whether or not you would have succeeded.

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5. Does your work consume your life?

It’s commonly said that no one ever dies wishing they’d worked more. Not all jobs allow you to leave your work on the desk at 5 o’clock, particularly in the digital age, but that doesn’t mean your work has to control your life. Set boundaries when and where you can. Sit down to dinner with your family when time permits. Squander a few minutes of reading the latest novel on your morning commute or on the treadmill. Find ways to fill your life with variety to give yourself a reason to face each day with something to get excited about.

6. Do you feel stimulated?

One of the things I love about my work as a teacher and a writer is that I’m always learning something, whether through research or a conversation with my students that challenges me to examine the world from a different angle. Meeting with challenges or learning new things in your work keeps your mind active and broadens your knowledge and skill set, but it can also help to spice up the monotony of the everyday routine. Whether you’re a housewife or a hedge-fund manager, having mentally or physically stimulating work to do can increase your sense of productivity and self-esteem. Nothing compares with the satisfaction of setting yourself a task and completing it.

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Featured photo credit: Stokpic via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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